Twelve months is a long time in racing. The scene at Randwick on Derby Day 1914 was rather different from that which greeted Beragoon’s triumph a year earlier. The two shots that Gavrilo Princip fired in Sarajevo on June 28th, 1914, killing the Austrian Archduke, Franz Ferdinand, and his wife, Sofia, had seen to that. Indeed, in that famous phrase of Sir Edward Grey, the lamps were going out all over Europe. Yet the effect on Derby Day of ‘The Great War of All Time’, as various scribes had taken to calling it, was still rather muted. Australia’s baptism of fire that would be Gallipoli was still six months away, and the hecatomb of men who would never return had not yet gone away in the first place. Indeed, there remained many who were convinced that the whole jolly adventure would be over by Christmas. In August 1914 the A.J.C. Chairman, Adrian Knox, offered the use of Randwick racecourse as a temporary camp for the expeditionary force, and for weeks before the opening of the A.J.C. Spring Meeting, a portion of the army remained in occupation.
The question that really exercised the minds of the sporting public throughout much of 1914 wasn’t so much whether or not war would ever come, but rather whether the Totalisator would? The evidence that was given in N.S.W. before the commission seemed to be overwhelmingly in favour of the introduction of the machine and yet to the surprise of the public, a majority of the commission found against it. While most people favoured legalisation, they were somewhat passive in their support. This passivity was in sharp contrast to the activity in financing a strong lobby against it by the bookmaking fraternity. Strangely enough, men who entered the Legislative Assembly as Tote advocates came to alter their views and it wasn’t always a lucid, reasoned debate in the House that changed their minds.
In their campaign, the bagmen were aided and abetted by the wowser – surely the most unlikely of alliances ever to conspire to frustrate progressive legislation in N.S.W. The wowser was opposed to betting in any form and the notion that it should be done under State sponsorship only aggravated his antipathy. The fact that it was impossible to check the betting habit, and that legalisation of the Tote would at least offer some measure of official regulation over promiscuous betting and raise revenues at the same time, was lost on these puritanical zealots. And Puritans they were! In that searing phrase of H. L. Mencken, the so-called ‘Sage of Baltimore’, these people “suffered from the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy”.
The course of history often seems inevitable when one looks upon it in retrospect; there is a certainty about the order of things that is by no means apparent at the time. A betting compromise that accommodated both bookmakers and an on-course Totalisator was not the expected outcome, and many looked upon the debate of bagmen versus machine as a choice of absolutes. By 1914 the Totalisator was operating in New Zealand and most States of Australia, although both N.S.W. and Victoria were the notable exceptions. In New Zealand, its introduction had seen a steady increase in the levels of prize money. It was for this reason that most clubs in the country districts of N.S.W. were favourable to the legalisation of the machine. Owners and trainers were somewhat more divided.
Although the virtues of more substantial stakes, lower fees and lessened corruption were attractive to many, those stables that looked to betting coups rather than richer prizes to bankroll their operations favoured the fixed odds of the ring to the blind wager on the machine. There were exceptions, of course. Frank McGrath was perhaps the wiliest plotter of betting stings then training in Sydney, and his support for the machine was unequivocal. John Brown in N.S.W. and J. C. Bowden in Victoria among the owners’ ranks, championed the legalisation of the Totalisator, and each man raced large strings of horses that were always run truly in public. Jim Scobie, on the other hand, favoured a scheme that accommodated both bookmakers and the machine.
In some minds, the question of the Totalisator was linked to the issue of the growth of proprietary racing clubs and the paltry prizes these clubs offered to horse owners. The boom in racing of the last few years had seen a number of racecourses such as Menangle Park and Kembla Grange come into existence just outside the metropolitan radius of 40 miles, thereby avoiding the legislation designed to restrict the amount of racing in the metropolis. The fact remained that there was too much racing and the Government was deriving very little revenue from it. Legislation for the Tote might serve as a means both of compelling proprietary clubs to offer decent prizes and raise public revenue at the same time. The number of bookmaking licences issued by the A.J.C. demonstrated the strength of the betting ring at Randwick in 1914.
No fewer than 410 bookmakers operated the various enclosures with 140 of them in each of the Paddock and the Leger, and a further 130 in the Flat. Yet in the way of revenue, the club derived only £15,300 in licence fees, a fraction of what the Totalisator would return. Although there was pressure from the Labour Caucus for the Totalisator, the State Premier, William Holman, wasn’t in favour of its introduction and the question dragged on for another two years. Ironically, as we shall see, it was the cost of the Great War that ultimately coerced both the Victorian and N.S.W. governments to introduce it. I might mention that it wasn’t just the threat of the Tote that was getting some bookmakers excited. The A.J.C.’s decision during the year that bookmakers’ positions at Randwick should be balloted for annually wasn’t to the liking of some older members of the ring enjoying the more prominent and favourable locations on the racecourse.
Despite the absence of the Totalisator, Australian racing in general, and Randwick, in particular, was riding an unprecedented boom. In the five years from 1909-10 to 1913-14 admission money received by the A.J.C. had climbed from £52,486 to £95,132 and attendances had almost doubled. The prize money offered by the A.J.C. had increased commensurate with this boon. The club was flush with funds, and at the Annual General Meeting held in August, £10,000 was voted towards patriotic purposes. One other procedural change that was agreed to at that same meeting was the insertion in the race card of the numbers of the stands of the various bookmakers – then if the bagman absconded during the afternoon’s proceedings, one could at least identify where he once touted for business!
In all the years that the Derby has been run at Randwick, I don’t think there has ever been an unluckier owner than L.K.S. Mackinnon in failing to win the race. It wasn’t for want of trying. All told over the years, from his first runner in 1906 to his last in 1929, he started eight horses in the race, two of them running as short-priced favourites, and the closest he ever came to victory was with two seconds and a third. The year 1914 was to be the closest call of all. Yet for all his undoubted misfortune in never winning the race, I don’t think the average working man that crowded into the Flat or the Leger, or even the Saddling Paddock, ever spent much time regretting the fact. For more than any other man, Lauchlan Kenneth Scobie Mackinnon came to embody all that was elitist, privileged, and snobbish about the sport of horseracing.
Born on the Isle of Skye in 1862, the fifth son of a Presbyterian Minister, he studied for the law in London. One Saturday afternoon shortly after his arrival in that city, he walked to Alexandra Park and paid a guinea for admission to the course. He was entranced and his next visit to a race meeting was on Wednesday, 26 May 1880, when Bend Or won the English Derby. The day before that Derby was run, he received a money order from his father for £6/10/-, the price of a dog he had sold for him. Seeking a cousin who was in London at the time, they decided to use the money on an excursion to Epsom. A hansom cab was acquired for thirty shillings and a similar sum was invested in a luncheon basket, and viewing the race from atop of the hansom, they saw Bend Or defeat Robert the Devil in one of the most exciting finishes in the long history of the race. After that Mackinnon saw a lot of racing in England where he remained for several years completing his legal training. He witnessed the English Derbies won by Iroquois (1881) and Shotover (1882).
Upon completing his legal studies, Mackinnon arrived in Melbourne in December 1884 to join his cousin, Sir Lauchlan Mackinnon, and a few days after his arrival, he accompanied his cousin to the Boxing Day meeting at Caulfield. Soon after settling here, he joined the prestigious legal firm of Malleson, England and Stewart, but in 1887 he began his long association with the firm of Blake and Riggall, which only came to an end with his death. He was a joint senior partner at the time. It was not until the 1890s, however, that he began to take an active interest in racing and his association with Isaac Foulsham dated from around this time. Mackinnon was one of a number of prominent commercial men in those days who went to great lengths to cloak their dealings on the Turf in the refuge of a nom de course. It was at a time when all manner of rogues and vagabonds seemed to go racing, and it wasn’t deemed politic to have the name of a prominent figure in a leading law firm, responsible for vast sums of trust money, too closely linked to the racecourse.
I think the first horse in which Mackinnon was interested was the grey steeplechaser, Boulevard, which he owned in partnership with Ernest de Little. A good jumper when trained and ridden by Godfrey Watson, Boulevard ran second to Redleap in the 1892 Caulfield Grand National (Australian) Steeplechase, albeit when in receipt of three stone from the winner. Boulevard was later sold to the Miller Bros., owners of Redleap, for 700 guineas after the race. It was soon afterwards that Boulevard crashed and broke all four of his legs.
Lauchlan Mackinnon eventually registered his own racing colours of ‘white, orange braces, collar, and two arm-bands edged with black, orange cap’ with the Victoria Racing Club. The association of Mackinnon as owner and Ike Foulsham as his trainer began soon after he parted with Boulevard. It began when Mackinnon raced that good Lochiel mare, Loch Ness, a black filly who bore some semblance to her sire. Even back then Mackinnon showed that he wanted well-bred bloodstock as Nonsense, the dam of Loch Ness had won both the C.J.C. and D.J.C. Champagne Stakes in New Zealand and was a full sister to Oudeis. Loch Ness was perhaps a little disappointing but she did win a number of races including the Victorian Club Handicap at Caulfield in November 1893. It was just a matter of chance that Mackinnon missed out on Newhaven as a yearling. Leslie Macdonald advised him to purchase Newminster as the colt was a particularly good paddock galloper at St Albans as a youngster.
In the same draft from St Albans, that year was another Newminster colt from Zuleika, which Foulsham greatly fancied. He liked Newhaven, too, but preferred the breeding of Zuleika, who although only by Robin Arab, was out of a Touchstone mare, whereas Newhaven’s dam had a short pedigree. Besides, Zuleika had already produced Azim to Newminster and he had won the 1892 V.R.C. Spring Stakes. Mackinnon didn’t have quite as much money at his command in those days compared to his later years when he was one of the most plucky buyers of yearlings in Australia, otherwise, he probably would have purchased both colts. He told Foulsham to buy the one he preferred and in the end, Ike plumped for the Zuleika colt that raced as Kobold. Curiously, both colts sold for the same price, 120 guineas, but Newhaven, as we have seen, went to James Wilson jr. While Kobold proved to be worth much more than the price given for him, he wasn’t in Newhaven’s class although strangely enough, he defeated Newhaven in the V.R.C. Normanby Stakes at Flemington on New Year’s Day,1896, albeit in receipt of 10lb from the V.R.C. Maribyrnong Plate winner! Mackinnon had good cause for rueing his misfortune in missing out on Newhaven, a Victoria Derby winner because in later life he spent a king’s ransom trying to buy himself a yearling good enough to win a blue riband.
The next racehorse of note to be raced by L.K.S. Mackinnon was Massinissa. Foulsham purchased this colt who was by Splendor from Algerine for 285 guineas when the Tocal yearlings of 1896 were sold at Randwick. It was another shrewd purchase by Foulsham as the colt was out of a half-sister to the 1890 A.J.C. Derby winner, Gibraltar. While Massinissa managed to win both a Toorak Handicap and a Memsie Stakes at Caulfield, he was rather unlucky not to claim a Caulfield Cup as well. Massinissa didn’t begin racing until a three-year-old and ran only a few times in his first season without distinction. He came good in the spring as a four-year-old and Foulsham managed to get him into the 1898 Caulfield Cup with just 6 st. 12lb. Only after the weights had been issued did Massinissa reveal any form. When he ran away from a strong field in the V.A.T.C. Toorak Handicap the week before the Cup, he became the 4/1 favourite for the race, despite incurring a 7lb penalty.
In the Caulfield Cup, he was ridden by A. E. (Bert) Foulsham, Ike’s son. There was a bad smash in the race that year, when, passing the stands, Acton fell and in a trice Reka, Robin Hood, Mischief, Superb, The Musketeer and Majestic had fallen over him while others including Massinissa and Coil were badly checked. James Flanagan, the fourteen-year-old rider of Robin Hood was killed. Bert Foulsham declared after the race that Massinissa had jumped over two of the fallen horses and covered extra ground on the outside before finishing second. Accordingly, he did well to finish within two lengths of the ultimate winner, Hymettus, who had enjoyed a trouble-free run. Afforded a clear run, he probably would have credited Mackinnon with the Caulfield Cup and given the Scotsman his first important success as an owner. After failing in the Melbourne Cup won by The Grafter, Massinissa was put aside. He came back as a six-year-old to run a dead-heat with Eiridsdale in the Memsie Stakes, which, I think, was the last race he won.
Earlier that same year of 1898, Mackinnon made his first excursion into the New Zealand bloodstock market when, acting on his behalf, Ike Foulsham gave 1000 guineas for Lancaster, a three-quarter brother to Trenton, at the sale of the Wellington Park yearlings at Auckland. Lancaster was one of the best horses ever owned by Mackinnon although he didn’t open his winning account until he was a three-year-old and on that day in 1899 when Dewey won the Caulfield Cup, Lancaster was successful in the Maiden Plate. For a while, it seemed that Mackinnon had made a rather poor bargain when he bought him. However, the following year Lancaster revealed himself in his true light when he won the Malakoff Stakes in August and then a Three and Four-Year-Old Handicap at Flemington and a Trial Stakes at Randwick, in which he defeated San Fran. It was good form and Lancaster came right into the market for the Melbourne Cup. When he won the Melbourne Stakes brilliantly on the first Saturday, Lancaster firmed to become the 3/1 favourite in Clean Sweep’s Melbourne Cup.
Mackinnon wasn’t afraid to bet in those days and the Melbourne ring would have been much poorer had Lancaster won. Indeed, one Melbourne bookmaker was so heavily committed on Lancaster that he made overtures to Mackinnon to enable him to back the horse with him to reduce his liability. The bookmaker, however, ultimately decided to allow matters to stand as they were, and no business resulted. Mysteriously, Lancaster ran an unaccountably bad race in the hands of jockey Wally Burn. He was unlucky in being left in front when the pace was slow and he had to remain there. It turned out to be a peculiar race in many ways. One of the most fortunate purchases made by Mackinnon was when he gave 650 guineas for Realm after the Gippsland horse had won the Grand National Hurdle in 1906.
Around this period, Mackinnon was in the habit of lunching at Scott’s Hotel regularly with friends, including Albert Miller. During the luncheon the day after the sale when the identity of Realm’s purchaser remained unknown, Miller blurted out: “Somebody with more money than sense has given 650 guineas for Realm!” The following day, when apprised of Mackinnon’s ownership, Miller apologised profusely. It’s true that Mackinnon wasn’t shy in paying large sums for his horses, although he initially raced them in Foulsham’s name. In 1898 Foulsham paid a thousand guineas on Mackinnon’s behalf for Lancaster, a three-quarter brother to Trenton, at the sale of Wellington Park yearlings in New Zealand. Lancaster proved one of the best horses ever to carry his colours, and among other good races, he won the Melbourne Stakes and ran as the favourite in Clean Sweep’s Melbourne Cup. But the Derby was the race that our Scottish lawyer was after.
A little later on Mackinnon assumed the racing fiction, Mr K.S. McLeod, and it was under this description that he enjoyed his first two starters in the A.J.C. Derby, Iolaire (1906) and Seddon (1907), both of which ran unplaced. But it was Mackinnon’s third runner in the race, and the first to run in his own name, that was to give him his greatest thrills in the Sport of Kings and go nearest of all to realising his lifelong ambition of winning the coveted classic. The horse in question was Woorak, a little colt bred by James Redfearn at the Chatsworth Stud on the Goulburn River, near Tabilk in Victoria. As a yearling, he was not taken to Melbourne for sale in the usual way because he was considered too small and backward. But Mackinnon nonetheless learned that the little fellow was for sale, and he journeyed to Chatsworth with a veterinary surgeon to inspect him. He closed the deal with James Redfearn with £500.
What was it about the colt that prompted the patrician Mackinnon to make the journey in person? Part of the answer lay in the colt’s sire, Traquair, for whom Mackinnon had the greatest respect. But of more importance was the dam’s side of his pedigree, for Woorak was a grandson of Madcap, that wonderful producer and a mare that had made the family fortune of James Redfearn. How he came by the horse is an interesting story. In the early 1880s, Redfearn had the training stables at the back of the old Williamstown racecourse, which for years were such a prominent landmark. When Etienne de Mestre came over from Sydney for the big race meetings in Victoria he usually stayed with Redfearn at those Williamstown stables, and it was on one such trip, and in gratitude for the hospitality, that de Mestre presented Redfearn with the young filly named Madcap. Some years later when sent to the stallion, Malua, she produced Malvolio whom Redfearn trained to win the 1891 Melbourne Cup, when ridden by his son. It was a very lucrative result for apart from the prize itself, those leviathan bookmakers Morris, Jacobs and Jack Cohen, who were such strong supporters of the Redfearn stable, backed the horse for a lot of money.
But it was the aftermath of the Cup meeting that caused the controversy. De Mestre, somewhat belatedly, claimed the stakes of £10,000 or part thereof, on the contention that he was the real owner of Malvolio’s dam, whom, he said, he had merely lent to Redfearn all those years before. It is surprising what the allurement of gold will do to a man’s better judgement in times of desperation, and de Mestre had by then descended into the state of penury that was to mark the last third of his life. Redfearn was able to convince Victorian racing officials that the filly had been no loan, but rather an outright gift. Madcap proved a wonderful matron, for apart from Malvolio she was also the dam of the Newmarket Handicap winner, Maluma, as well as other good horses, one of which was Madam, the dam of Woorak. Though Redfearn maintained a breeding establishment at Tabilk after Malvolio won the Melbourne Cup and bred some good winners there, he had been unlucky enough to sell the best of them. In parting with Woorak to Mackinnon for £500, he was to make the worst bloodstock bargain of his life.
Lauchlan Mackinnon sent Woorak to Sydney to be trained by Ike Earnshaw. As a rule, Earnshaw wasn’t one to ask much of his juveniles before the autumn, but Woorak showed such exceptional speed on the track that he set him for the Breeders’ Plate and Gimcrack Stakes at the A.J.C. Spring Meeting of 1913. However, the colt contracted a cold just before the meeting, and because of the setback, Earnshaw scratched him from the Breeders Plate (5f) and delayed his debut until the shorter Gimcrack Stakes (4 ½f), which in those days was also open to colts.
The interrupted preparation meant that the trainer wasn’t prepared to give Mackinnon much encouragement to wager. An excellent opportunity was thereby missed. If Woorak had a cold before the race, it was his eighteen rivals that had one after it, for they were simply blown away in his backdraft. Woorak showed blistering speed from the start, establishing a ten-length lead in the first two furlongs and posting an Australian record of 55 ½ seconds for the trip. At the post, he had five lengths to spare over the filly Carlita, a high-class racehorse herself and will figure elsewhere in this chapter. On Woorak’s returning to scale, pressmen noted Ike Earnshaw twisting his moustache, and sporting an expansive smile. He might not have backed Woorak on this occasion, but he now knew just what he had in his stable.
The balance of Woorak’s juvenile season was almost one similar untrammelled riot of speed. In six appearances all told that season, he tasted defeat but once and that was against the older horses in the V.A.T.C. Oakleigh Plate when, despite being burdened with 15lb over weight-for-age, he ran as the favourite. Penalties notwithstanding, he won both the Ascot Vale Stakes and Sires’ Produce Stakes at Flemington and the December Stakes and Champagne Stakes at Randwick, and except for the last race, all were won by significant margins. His earnings for the season totalled £6,317. The Champagne Stakes proved to be the final big race success for his trainer, Isaac Earnshaw. Ike died less than a month later while undergoing an operation. At the time he had a splendid team of rising three-year-olds, as apart from Woorak, his Bruntwood stables also boarded Imshi, with which he had won the A.J.C. Sires Produce Stakes for Walter Brunton. Whereas Imshi found his way into Tom Payten’s yard on Earnshaw’s death, Lauchlan Mackinnon chose to transfer Woorak to his old Melbourne trainer, Ike Foulsham, who had only recently relocated from Caulfield to Randwick for health reasons.
Isaac Foulsham had been born in Sydney in 1855 to parents who were not connected to racing in any way. However, from an early age, he had the urge to be with horses: to ride them, to watch them and to train them. Ike was a very little chap in knickerbockers when one morning he asked the gateman at the old Homebush course whether it cost anything to enter? The gateman let him pass through and thereafter watching the horses work became a regular activity. When aged only twelve young Ike had ridden ponies on the Albert ground at Waterloo in the city’s inner west, where the track was a quarter of a mile around. Foulsham spent a term with Tom Ivory, who was then one of the leading Randwick trainers, before serving out his apprenticeship with John Tait in the halcyon days of Byron Lodge. The Barb was almost finished as a racehorse when Foulsham entered Tait’s employ but Florence was there and at the peak of her form. One of the horses that he rode in work was the famous Lamplighter, and another was Coquette, the future dam of Progress. After completing his time with Tait, he remained with him for another year. Walter Hickenbotham, who like Foulsham, was to become a leading trainer, was attached to Tait’s stable at the same time as Foulsham.
Alas, Ike Foulsham couldn’t ride and he knew it. He left Tait while still in his late teens and went to work for the newly appointed Governor of N.S.W., Sir Hercules Robinson. He looked after two or three horses for the sporting Governor and did the same when that owner’s horses were trained by Tom Lamond. It was while in Lamond’s employ that Foulsham won a few hundred pounds on the 1873 A.J.C. Derby and Great Metropolitan Stakes double when Benvolio and Horatio respectively took out the feature races. He decided to visit Melbourne to see the Cup. But the good fortune that had attended him at Randwick deserted him at Flemington and when Don Juan won Australia’s signature race, Foulsham’s money was on other starters. He had no choice but to find a job and he did so by becoming the foreman to W. Bowes, who had a team of jumpers stabled at the Cricketer’s Arms (later The Ritz) at St Kilda. Ike’s association with jumpers didn’t end when he parted company with Bowes. Morris Griffin, a great rider, purchased the Cricketer’s Arms and Ike looked after his horses for a while, winning races with the likes of Shakespeare, Peacock and Glengarry.
Indeed, it was with jumpers that Foulsham achieved his financial breakthrough. It came with Asmodeus, a horse that he encouraged Jack Leek to buy out of a selling hurdle race at Ballarat for £65 in the spring of 1875. Foulsham set Asmodeus for the hurdle race at Flemington on New Year’s Day, although to make sure that he was on target, Foulsham himself gave the horse a quiet ride in the handicap hurdle race at Williamstown on Boxing Day. Subsequent to that Williamstown race, the racing correspondent for the Leader newspaper wrote: “…there was a general remark made in the paddock to the effect that it was not Asmodeus’s day out, whatever that may mean.” Well, the Leader’s correspondent found out what it meant six days later at Flemington when the money was ladled on Asmodeus by the stable for the V.R.C. Hurdle Race over three miles. The aged brown gelding led virtually from start to finish to win the first race on a card that is now best remembered for Richmond’s triumph in the Champion Stakes.
Clearly, Isaac Foulsham was going to make it in the racing game. He had taken over a splendid brick stable of six boxes not far removed from Purves’s paddock in St Kilda in the quietest part of the then aristocratic suburb. His first horses were hurdlers, and Asmodeus apart, he also trained Veno, a roan horse by Panic, and the first he ever trained in his own name. Asmodeus won Foulsham the Amateur Hurdle Race in October 1876 at just the third meeting held by the V.A.T.C. Then Veno won the Hurdle Race on the same day that Briseis won the Oaks at Flemington. It was Veno that gave Tommy Corrigan his first important race victory. It was this brand of success that attracted other clients to Foulsham’s stables and he began to obtain a better class of horse to train. Edward Henty, a son of one of the original Victorian settlers at Portland was his first client of distinction. A fine type of racing man with plenty of money who loved the sport, Henty bred a lot of horses and for him, Foulsham trained Waxy, Electricity and Fritz. When Henty died in August 1878, the noted Victorian barrister of the day, J. L. Purves, purchased Waxy and Foulsham continued to train the six-year-old and a couple of months later, he ran the minor placing in Calamia’s Melbourne Cup.
It was in May 1879 that Foulsham relocated to the beachside suburb of Brighton with his house and Gipsy Village stables a short distance from the Duke of Edinburgh Hotel, between the Beach Railway station and the Red Bluff. Joseph Griffin also trained his string down there at the time. The stables were well sheltered from the southerly gales by belts of ti-tree that skirted Brighton Beach and there was plenty of galloping ground and a fine field for walking exercise. It was from Brighton that he trained Rhesus on behalf of Dr (afterwards Sir) Thomas Fitzgerald to win the 1882 Grand National Hurdle. Fitzgerald raced under the assumed name of ‘T. Naghten’ and Rhesus that day was ridden by the 22-year-old James Scobie, who won by half a head from Lothair in a desperate finish. Scobie also won the Caulfield Grand National Hurdle on Rhesus and the following year the same horse appropriated the Launceston Cup.
It was from his Brighton stables that Foulsham trained the marvellously versatile Malua for his remarkable series of victories in 1884. How Foulsham came to train Malua is an entertaining anecdote in itself. Originally hailing from Tasmania, Malua (then named Bagot) was raced in his first couple of seasons by Thomas Reibey, a former Premier of Tasmania. When Thomas Reibey wanted a man to go to Tasmania to train his horses, Foulsham was offered the position. However, relocation to the Apple Isle didn’t suit Foulsham’s ambitions at the time and instead, J. H. Tibballs, who knew Foulsham, got the job. Two horses in Reibey’s stable then sporting their owner’s all-rose colours were the brothers, Stockwell and the year younger Malua (racing as Bagot). Reibey had bought the pair of them at one and the same time from Tasmania’s leading studmaster, John Field, in the hope of bringing a Melbourne Cup to Tasmania.
As a two-year-old in Tasmania, Bagot won at Carrick, Hobart and Launceston and the following season when Tibbles brought Stockwell across to run second to The Assyrian in the 1882 Melbourne Cup, beaten just a half-length, Bagot accompanied him on the trip. From the moment that Tibbles landed in Melbourne with his horses, he had been asking Foulsham to come and have a look at the pair but Foulsham never found the time. Among the horses that Ike was training for the Flemington meeting was Verdure, a stylish grey mare owned by J. R. Cowell, and she had finished runner-up in the Caulfield Cup a couple of weeks before and Foulsham considered her a good thing for the V.R.C. Yan Yean Stakes. The stable backed her well but it was Malua who won the race in great style. “I went and had a look at him pretty quickly after the race, as Verdure had been tried very highly,” admitted Foulsham afterwards. Within days of the Cup disappointment and despite the compensation of the Yan Yean victory, Reibey resolved to sell both horses.
In his book ‘The Melbourne Cup’, author Maurice Cavanough incorrectly writes: “After he had raced the colts for a couple of seasons, Mr Reibey became convinced that if one of them was to make good his boast [of winning a Melbourne Cup], it would be Stockwell. Accordingly, he sent Bagot to the Newmarket sales in Melbourne where the colt was purchased by Mr J. O. Inglis for five hundred guineas. Mr Inglis changed Bagot’s name to Malua, a Fijian word meaning ‘to linger’.” In fact, Reibey sent both horses to the Newmarket sales, with Stockwell being knocked down to William Bailey for 660 guineas. But there is more to the story than that. Ike Foulsham had gone along to those Newmarket sales, fully intending to buy Bagot/Malua. However, when he ran into J. O. Inglis at the sales, it soon became apparent that both men were interested in the same horse. Inglis was a practical horseman in his own right but he recognised a better one in Foulsham and he said to Ike: “I’ll buy him and you can train him”.
Rather than each man bid against the other in cut-throat style at ringside, Foulsham consented to the arrangement. It was Inglis who changed the horse’s name to Malua. It was a lucky day for Foulsham when Malua entered his stables as he could sprint, stay and jump, a versatility that has never been matched on an Australian racecourse. Foulsham set Malua for both the Caulfield and Melbourne Cups the following year, but couldn’t get the horse quite right as he threw a bone spavin soon after Ike got him and he had to keep blistering his hock. After Malua finished down the course at Caulfield at 50/1, he didn’t even bother going around at Flemington in the two-miler. Inglis wanted to send the horse home to his property but Foulsham wouldn’t give in and finally told the owner that he would train the horse for nothing so long as he was left in his stables.
Malua ran in a few races over the spring and summer but by the time the next V.R.C. Newmarket Handicap came around, for which Ike had set Malua, the horse was lame again. About five weeks before the day he was so bad that Ike lost his temper and told his groom: “Give him a pot of Stephen’s ointment.” As Foulsham later admitted: “I nearly rubbed his hock off, and by making a mistake I cured him.” The evening before the 1884 Newmarket Foulsham had to send one of the boys to get some oil from the chemist to take the scales off his hock. The stable commissioners were Sam Bradbury and Phil Glennister, and they backed Malua on the night before the race for about £20,000 averaging 100/5 for their money. On the course, ‘Dinny’ Fountain added a little more to the commission. In the words of Ike Foulsham: “Malua won all right, as I did not have any doubt would be the case immediately I got him right. When he was winning the Newmarket, I turned to J. O. Inglis and said he’ll win the Melbourne Cup like that, only more easily.”
It is worth recording that Malua carried 8 st. 7lb in that Newmarket, was ridden by Ivemy and defeated a field of thirty other starters. The favourite was Segenhoe, and Malua started at 7/1 and his time of 1 minute 15 ¼ seconds was a race record. Mention of that Newmarket brings to mind the comments made by Augur, the racing correspondent for The Australasian, who wrote: “What a tissue of lies were (sic) circulated about the horse by some economiser of the truth. He had spavins, couldn’t be trained, was blistered, and had been badly beaten by Paganini; yet the wily Foulsham brought him to the post in splendid condition, and won easily to the evident satisfaction of his owner and friends, who had touched the ring to some tune. They say all things are fair in love and war, and so they appear to be in racing. By the way, I’ve always thought that Malua was named after some island in the South Seas, but it was asserted on Saturday that in some language it meant ‘by and bye’. What a significant name.” All the jockeys who rode in that Newmarket declared afterwards that Malua had the race won after they crossed the tan, for he was pulling over everything.
In those days, the Oakleigh Plate as it was then called, was run after the Newmarket. Despite a weight rise of a stone, Malua won very easily and won a lot of money for his connections. The distance then was 5½ furlongs. The Oakleigh was run in the middle of March, and Malua at his very next start, exactly two months later, won the Adelaide Cup of one mile and five furlongs with nine stone, starting at the long price of 100/7, and paying £17/4/- for £1 on the totalisator. All this time Foulsham had just one idea concerning Malua and that was to win the next Melbourne Cup. In August he went to Sydney and on the first day of the A.J.C. Spring Meeting (then run in late August) Malua won the Spring Stakes, being ridden by Alec Robertson.
It was in the A.J.C. Plate of three miles, on the final day of the meeting, that Malua convinced Foulsham he would stay a strong two miles. There were only three starters in the event but Brown and Rose made the pace a cracker and Malua was only beaten a length by the odds-on favourite Off Colour. Foulsham realised that with a stayer’s preparation, Malua would run a mighty race at Flemington. Accordingly, plans were made for a ‘killing’ in the Melbourne Cup. Malua’s next start came in the Caulfield Cup when handicapped with 9 st. 12lb and his owner J. O. Inglis partnered him. He finished just behind the placegetters in the race won by Blink Bonny. Now, Inglis was a great amateur rider, almost on a par with Jack Brewer but given the money at stake in the Melbourne Cup, Foulsham wanted a professional. Alec Robertson got the mount. On the first day of the V.R.C. Spring Meeting, Malua won the Melbourne Stakes easily. He had 9 st. 9lb in the Melbourne Cup but he went to the post as the equal 6/1 favourite with Hastings.
It was a strong field with some top gallopers but after a two-horse war down the Flemington straight, Malua won by a half-length from the year-older Commotion (9 st. 12lb) with Plausible, a couple of lengths further adrift. Upon returning to scale, Malua was accorded one of the greatest ovations ever received at Flemington. Just two days after the Cup, Malua stepped out again at Flemington in the Flying Stakes (w-f-a) over six furlongs and showcased his versatility going under by a mere head to Newstead, a two-year-old who had won the Maribyrnong Plate on the first day of the meeting in a canter and to whom Malua was conceding 37lb. The time for the race was a sparkling 1 minute 14 seconds, which was very fast at Flemington in the late nineteenth century. Malua then ran again on the last Saturday of the meeting, finishing second to Commotion in the V.R.C. Canterbury Plate over two miles. Malua wasn’t right in the autumn and after just one run when he finished second behind Commotion in the V.R.C. Essendon Stakes (1 ½ mile), was sent to the paddocks for a whole year.
Malua came back in the autumn of 1886 and after finishing unplaced in the V.R.C. Newmarket Handicap with his owner in the saddle, five days later he came out on the Thursday and won the V.R.C. Australian Cup with 9 st. 9lb. Afterwards, Malua lost form and as with age, became more difficult to train. He ran in Arsenal’s 1886 Cup carrying 10 stone with his owner up but wasn’t dangerous and his days on the flat were nearly done. Inglis took him up to his station at Ingliston and schooled Malua over jumps while Foulsham entered him for the 1887 V.R.C. Grand National Hurdle at Flemington. Despite being handicapped on 11 st. 7lb and with his owner in the saddle, he won just as he liked after starting the favourite. Malua continued to race into 1889 interspersing his racecourse activities with stud duties.
It was the money won on Malua and other horses that enabled Foulsham in 1887 to purchase nearly four acres of land at Caulfield with long frontages to the Neerim and Booran roads and build a large and lofty new brick house and stables with more than fourteen boxes. The land, nearly triangular in shape, was almost opposite the gates at the southern side of the Caulfield Racecourse and afforded excellent views of the bay and shipping as well as the Dandenong and Plenty Ranges. The house itself had eleven rooms and made a big hole in £5,000. At the time Foulsham moved in, Caulfield was just beginning to enjoy a boom as a centre for training operations, a boom that had been slowly triggered by the formation of the Victorian Amateur Turf Club at that famous meeting at Craig’s Hotel, Ballarat, on October 13 and 14, 1875.
Until then Caulfield had been largely used by hunt clubs and for training hunters. Foulsham along with Tommy Carslake, one of his early neighbours at Caulfield, was not the sort to court publicity and ring the town bell to announce his good things to the public. Foulsham was always exceedingly loyal to his employers, and if the strength of his horses got out the information certainly never came from him. A dry conversationalist, Foulsham would pepper his chosen utterances with quaint sayings. At Caulfield, he would often entertain the company at early morning trackwork with one of his choicest yarns just as his horses jumped off the mark. Much of the gallop would have been traversed by the time anyone noticed and set their watches going. It was this very shrewdness and sense of discretion that saw William (later Sir William) Cooper invite Foulsham to become his private trainer at Randwick, soon after the latter had moved into his new Caulfield premises. Foulsham was already training a number of horses for Cooper including Trenton, Niagara and Silvermine. Cooper had recently purchased the training establishment in Lower Randwick formerly occupied by John Allsop and sought the exclusive services of a horseman to superintend it with no other outside clients. Cooper had always treated Ike well and he was a difficult man to whom to say “no!”
Foulsham immediately agreed to tenant his new Caulfield premises, to off-load his non-Cooper owned horses, and transfer to the Harbour City. Foulsham ensconced himself and Cooper’s horses in his newly painted and renovated Randwick house and stables in late August 1887. Alas, it was to be a shortlived affair and one punctuated by the tragic death of jockey Alex Robertson, after his fall from the Cooper-owned and Foulsham-trained Silvermine in the Tattersall’s Club Cup in early January 1888. Before that month was out, William Cooper had decided to go to England with his brother and the arrangement with Foulsham was terminated on terms of mutual satisfaction. Back in his old haunts at Caulfield, it wasn’t long before Foulsham was turning out winners again.
In October 1891 Foulsham pulled off a great coup when he won the Caulfield Cup with G’Naroo for George Woodforde, a prominent figure in the counsels of the V.A.T.C. The evening before that race, G’Naroo was 20/1 but by the time he went to the post, he’d firmed to 6/1. The stable enjoyed another great result later that same season when Bill Sayer’s Wild Rose, who the previous year had won the prestigious V.A.T.C. Oakleigh Handicap, won the V.R.C. Newmarket Handicap. Again, the bulk of the money only came very late into the market when the daughter of Newminster was at a long price and by flagfall, she had come into 12/1. Foulsham almost made it two Newmarkets in succession and another big plunge to boot when he prepared Malolo for the same race in 1893, but the son of Malua went under to Fortunatus, who in winning avenged his narrow defeat by Malolo’s stablemate the year before. Mackinnon’s association with Foulsham went back a long way, and in due course the owner purchased Earnshaw’s famous Bruntwood training stables, eventually changing the name to ‘Kingsburgh’ after his Melbourne Cup winner, and it was from there that Foulsham proceeded to train his string.
Sometimes the acquisition of a top-class horse from another stable can be a mixed blessing for a trainer. If the horse fails to recapture his previous form, then unflattering comparisons are sure to be made, and if the horse does go on with the job, the trainer might only get grudging credit. Woorak was a particularly intriguing case because his natural speed and pedigree suggested he might not stay and yet the Derby was the prize on Mackinnon’s mind. The doubts about his stamina saw the colt quoted at liberal odds for the classic as the Sydney autumn darkened into winter. Although his dam’s half-brother, Malvolio, was a Melbourne Cup winner and her full sister, Vanity Fair, ran second in that race as well, it was the questionable influence of Traquair and the blatancy of his own speed that sowed the doubts. Indeed, it was an open secret that the little chestnut was for sale at £2,000 in early August, not something expected of a genuine Derby candidate when the owner isn’t short of a quid. But Mackinnon soon withdrew Woorak from the market when his track form suggested that under Foulsham he had returned as good as ever.
As the weather warmed in the last days of winter so did the public towards Woorak’s Derby prospects and his price shortened when he resumed at the Tattersall’s Meeting and equalled the Australian record for nine furlongs in the Chelmsford Stakes. Woorak went to the front at the milepost and simply ran his rivals off their feet. What was unusual about that race was the complete domination of three-year-olds – filling the first six places! Afterwards, the bookmakers wouldn’t even offer a price against him for the Derby and, as it turned out, Woorak didn’t run again before the big day. It had been intended to start him in the Rosehill Guineas provided the ground had been in good order. Mackinnon arrived from Melbourne by express train on the Saturday morning of the Guineas race and Foulsham took Woorak to the train to meet him. But after explaining that six inches of rain had fallen on the Rosehill course, the decision was made to leave Woorak in his box.
Despite the decline in nominations for the A.J.C. Spring Meeting, seventy less than the previous year, those doomsayers who predicted the meeting would be a failure on account of the War and the drought, were sadly disappointed. A crowd of about 40,000 attended the course on Derby Day, and although there was a falling-off of Victorian and Queensland visitors, there was plenty of money in the ring. One change to the scene at Randwick from the previous year’s Derby was the completed construction of the public tearoom with accommodation for eight hundred people. A field of eleven – ten colts and just one filly – confronted the starter for the blue riband for which the club had added £5,000 to the prize. On the evening before the Derby, as much as two to one was on offer in the clubs about Woorak: but it was another story when the bookmakers assembled on the course the following morning and opened their ledgers for business at 11 o’clock. Woorak was heavily supported into even money with sevens on offer about the next best.
The two colts that filled the minor placings behind Woorak at the Tattersall’s Meeting, Mountain Knight and Ravello, shared the second line of Derby betting. Mountain Knight was a particularly interesting runner. Trained by the veteran Harry Rayner at Randwick for E. J. (James) Watt, the colt was a son of the former A.J.C. Derby winner, Mountain King. Although he managed to win just one race from eight starts and £987 in his first season, he was placed in the best of company. Mountain Knight was widely acclaimed as the winner of the A.J.C. Sires’ Produce Stakes when he took charge at the distance, only to be run down by Imshi. He disappointed when he finished just behind the place-getters in the Champagne Stakes won by Woorak and was beginning to show the effects of a hard week of racing when he could only manage third in the Easter Stakes at his last appearance of the season.
A very big colt, some were surprised that Rayner produced him as early as mid-November in his first season, but it was noticeable when he returned from his spell at Windsor at the end of May to begin his Derby preparation, that he no longer gave the impression of legginess and had thickened considerably. Rayner had chosen to only give the big fellow one run prior to his Derby engagement, and that in the Chelmsford Stakes, when with 4lb less than Woorak, he chased that colt home in record time, finishing a couple of lengths in arrears. Ravello, the other joint second favourite in the Derby, was a half-brother to the Melbourne Cup winner, The Parisian, and trained by Joe Burton. He first showed promise the previous Easter when he won a mile Nursery in good style. His minor placing in the Chelmsford Stakes ensured him his prominence in the betting market.
The only filly in the Derby field, Carlita, had a touch of romance to her background. Foaled in New Zealand at J. B. Reid’s Elderslie Stud, the Rouse Bros of Biriganbil purchased her with her mother when Elderslie was disbursed in 1912. Unfortunately, Carlita’s mother died on the sea voyage to Australia and Carlita was left alone to be reared at Biriganbil. Offered at the 1913 Sydney Yearling Sales, and given that her sire, Charlemagne II, was something of an unknown quantity, she only realised 125 guineas on the bid of veteran Sydney trainer, John Moore, acting on behalf of a couple of French merchants.
I fancy that she was the first of the progeny of Charlemagne II to race in Australia, a stallion that the Thompson Bros of Oakleigh purchased for £2,300 – the highest price of the day, at the very same dispersal sale where Carlita was sold. Carlita had already proven herself a rare bargain even before her three-year-old season opened, for as a youngster she had failed to run first or second only once in 8 starts and had returned £2,289 in stakes. At the A.J.C. Autumn Meeting, she had given some anxious moments to those supporters of Woorak who had laid the 3/1 on in the Champagne Stakes when she ran the champion colt to a neck, and then later at that meeting created a big impression when winning the Easter Stakes. Her prominence in Derby betting had been assured when she rather effortlessly won a lacklustre Rosehill Guineas from which Woorak had been withdrawn on the morning of the race, run that year for the last time over seven furlongs. Other runners in the Derby included Imshi, the disappointing stable representative of Tom Payten; and Giru, a homebred owned and trained by Alfred Foley and the winner of the Hawkesbury Guineas.
The 1914 A.J.C. Derby field and race conditions are set out in the table below:
Ravello was in a particularly sour mood at the barrier, but when Mr Mackellar eventually despatched them, Woorak fairly flew from the line on his Derby career. He led clearly going out of the straight and along the back from Silver Steel and Mountain Knight, with Giru, Secret Service and Carlita next, while Ravello was near the rear and travelling most unkindly. At the half-mile post, Mountain Knight made a bid for the inside running, but Connell allowed the favourite more rein and the little chestnut stretched out to a two-length advantage. For a moment it seemed as if Woorak might pinch the race but Mountain Knight and Carlita were quickly in pursuit. Mountain Knight challenged the favourite inside the distance, and after a short, sharp struggle, he prevailed to win cleverly if not comfortably by three-quarters of a length, with a further three lengths to Giru in third place. Carlita tired in the run home to finish fifth after looking a winning chance just after the turn. Myles Connell had his critics after the race for allowing Woorak to run too freely in front, but neither Mackinnon nor Foulsham were numbered amongst them. Woorak had proved himself the best stayer ever sired by Traquair but one not quite good enough. The race was run in a fast 2 minutes 35 ¼ seconds, a time that had only been beaten once in the history of the race.
Mountain Knight accorded his sire, Mountain King, the honour of becoming the first A.J.C. Derby winner since Robinson Crusoe to beget a winner of the same classic. John McDonald had afforded Mountain King every chance at his Mungie Bundie Stud, giving him some first-class mares at a time when studmasters greatly favoured English stallions over their colonial cousins. Mountain Knight was a strapping brown colt, more coarse than handsome, but he did much to boost his sire’s popularity. He was one of nine yearlings offered by John McDonald through H. Chisholm and Company’s sales at Easter, 1913. As a matter of fact, he was the very first yearling sold at those Easter Sales. Chisholm’s had drawn the opening day that year and the Mungie Bundie yearlings, of which he was the first, began proceedings. The batch sold rather cheaply both on account of the first crop by the stallion having failed, and the fact that this second offering had the dubious distinction of opening proceedings. The best price paid was 220 guineas, and in the case of Mountain Knight, E. J. Watt of New Zealand was able to secure him for 210 guineas. His dam, La Veille, was from Vigil, a half-sister to the dam of Wakeful; his pedigree boasted a double-cross of Musket blood through Mountain King’s sire, Wallace, and Trenton.
Mountain Knight was the fourth and last winner of the Derby at Randwick bred by 72-year old John McDonald at his famous Mungie Bundie Stud, following on from the previous successes of Belah, Mountain King and Cisco. If we also include the Victoria Derbies won by Lady Wallace and Mountain King, it will be seen that McDonald was responsible for breeding five winners of six Derbies in the twelve years leading up to the Great War – a wonderful contribution to the bloodstock industry in this State. It was shortly after the War, in 1919, that McDonald relinquished his active interest in the Turf and disposed of his stud to his loyal manager, Mr John P. Burgess, on the eve of a trip to New Zealand. Although Burgess carried on the stud for some years, the sun had already set on the golden era of Mungie Bundie.
In March 1920, a few months after selling the stud, McDonald resigned from the committee of the Australian Jockey Club. He had first been elected to the committee in April 1908 only to step down in December 1910 for personal reasons. Again, elected a committeeman in September 1911 he remained there until he finally quit for good in 1920. It was Walter Brunton who succeeded in the vacancy created. Mountain King, the sire of Mountain Knight, was probably the best racehorse to carry the McDonald tartan although there were many other high-class animals bred by the Squire of Mungie Bundie and apart from the Derby winners already mentioned these included Balarang, Braehead, Poi Dance and Pah King. John McDonald was to remain an active member of the board of the Commonwealth Wool and Produce Company Ltd for more than thirty years and retained the managing directorship of Castlereagh House Ltd up to the time of his death. Like many valetudinarians, McDonald suffered rude good health until very late in life, nodding in the half-light of old age but nonetheless, retaining a passive interest in the Turf to the very end in March 1936 during his 94th year.
In the wake of his Derby success, Charlie Kellow made inquiries as to whether Mountain Knight was for sale but as James Watt placed a price of £10,000 on the big fellow no business was done. The price itself suggested that Watt had waited such a long time for a Derby winner that he was determined to enjoy the experience for as long as it lasted. Mountain Knight did not appear again at the 1914 A.J.C. Spring Meeting but Woorak did, winning the Craven Plate on the third day, leading for most of the journey, winning easily and posting an Australian record. It was a performance that convinced many that he might turn the tables on Mountain Knight in the Victoria Derby.
But the rains descended on Flemington on Derby Day and the classic was run on a greasy surface that suited neither colt, and both finished down the course in the race won by the filly, Carlita, at long odds. She went on to win the Oaks from her only two opponents later in the week. Mountain Knight had deliberately not been nominated for the Melbourne Cup or the other major spring handicaps, and his only other appearances at the southern fixture came at weight-for-age in the Linlithgow Stakes (1m.) and C.B. Fisher Plate (1 ½ m.), each of which he won comfortably. Incidentally, in those two races, he sported the livery of Sir William Cooper, in order to observe the proprieties of the age owing to the death of E. J. Watt’s youngest sister. In the autumn Mountain Knight confirmed his rating as the best stayer of his age winning the St Legers at Flemington and Randwick.
Good horse though he was, there was always the suspicion about Mountain Knight that he was neither a genuine stayer nor a first-class weight-for-age horse. Certainly, his connections seemed unwilling to test him in the big staying handicaps at three. He was struck out of the Sydney Cup on the day the weights were issued when James Watt objected to his allotted 8 st. 10lb or 8lbs over the scale, and his defeat in the weight-for-age Cumberland Stakes run over 2 miles at the same meeting raised questions as to his stamina. Whether or not he might have matured into a high-class stayer at four, the chance was cruelly denied him. There was a good reason for believing that he was got at in his stall prior to the running of the A.J.C. Spring Stakes in 1915 when he failed badly as a hot favourite.
Certainly, his jockey Midget McLachlan thought so. And later that spring when he had recovered, he broke his shoulder in a fall in the Melbourne Cup won by Patrobas, which prevented him from ever racing again. Mountain Knight was subsequently sold for stud duty to the Douglas family of Hawke’s Bay. He enjoyed only moderate success, although his winners included Mount Marta (H.B.J.C. Hawkes Bay Guineas), and Toa Taua and Mountain Lion, who each won the A.R.C. Welcome Stakes. As a sire of broodmares, Mountain Knight’s reputation is even slimmer; his only real claim resting with his daughter Megalo, who produced those two good milers, Golden Chance and Golden Wings, to the English imported stallion Lackham.
His great Derby rival, Woorak, enjoyed better fortune both on the course and in the paddock. I always thought that the attempt to make a stayer of Woorak was ill-judged. Too often such a policy merely serves towards the dulling of speed with no corresponding gain in stamina. Certainly, that was the case with Woorak, who for the remainder of his three-year-old season raced many lengths below his best form. But as a four and five-year-old, Woorak was not asked to extend himself beyond ten furlongs. He proved to be a wonderful sprinter/miler and a great weight carrier. At four he won the Epsom by six lengths and later in the same season ran second in the Newmarket with 9 st. 9lb and second in the Doncaster – beaten a neck on a dull track when burdened with 9 st. 12lb. The following season as a five-year-old, Woorak won the Oakleigh Plate with 10 st. 5lb and was retired to stud later that autumn with stake earnings of more than £17,100 which at the time placed him fifth on the list of all-time Australian stakes winners behind Carbine, Trafalgar, Poseidon and Carlita.
Of all the horses Lauchlan Mackinnon raced throughout his life, Woorak remained his favourite. Never one to become sentimental over anything, least of all his horses, it was the canny Scotsman’s approach to all things mercantile. Old-timers would recall that he gave 650 guineas for Realm after the Gippsland horse had won the Grand National Hurdle in 1906. It was a lot of money for a hurdler, and yet less than a month later Realm won the Australian Hurdle Race for him. The following autumn Realm was put to flat racing, and he went on to win the Australian Cup and Sydney Cup in Mackinnon’s colours. Still, Mackinnon had no hesitation in then selling him for fifteen hundred guineas to race in India. Some other horses that had proved good servants over the years were similarly discarded when the opportunity was high.
But the story of Woorak is different, or at least it was for a time. After the death of James Redfearn in March 1916, Chatsworth Stud, together with much of its stock, came on to the market. Mackinnon proceeded to buy the property as well as Madam, the dam of Woorak, paying 375 guineas for the old matron. Lauchlan Mackinnon retired the gallant little chestnut from the Turf after running, appropriately enough, in the Final Handicap at the A.J.C. Autumn Meeting of 1917. Woorak was installed at Chatsworth as the resident stallion, together with an impressive collection of mares, and Mackinnon even engaged his brother to manage the place.
In his first season, Woorak was available to the public at a fee of fifty guineas, although only the best outside mares were accepted. Alas, the stallion only served four books of mares in total before Mackinnon decided to sell out, ostensibly to concentrate on his extensive legal practice, although the real reason was the reluctance of breeders to patronise a colonial stallion. The first of Woorak’s progeny were just hitting the racecourse when the Chatsworth dispersal occurred, and judgement on his value as a stallion remained somewhat suspended. Although bidding reached 2200 guineas, it was less than his reserve, and he was passed in and later sold privately to Gerald Buckley and The Manor Stud at Werribee. If those prospective buyers who baulked at meeting the reserve soon had cause to rue their timidity, so did Mackinnon for his impetuosity in deciding to sell out in the first place.
Woorak proved a wonderful stallion, getting sprinters and stayers, as well as early comers and late developers, although, on the whole, I think his colts were generally better than his fillies. And the best of his progeny came from the mares he served in those four seasons at Chatsworth. For a number of years, Woorak was the leading Australian-bred sire in the winners’ lists. All told he sired sixteen individual winners of either group or principal races. Unquestionably the best of his progeny was Whittier, the winner of two Caulfield Cups and a Victoria Derby among other good races for Ben Chaffey; he came from the stallion’s second crop and was sold as a yearling at the dispersal of Chatsworth Stud. Other good gallopers by Woorak included the A.J.C. Sires Produce Stakes winner, Soorak, and the A.J.C. Metropolitan and St Leger winner, Sir Andrew.
Carlita, the only filly to start in the 1914 A.J.C. Derby was to prove the best racehorse in that field. She was at her best when allowed to run to the front in her races; it was in that manner that she won the Oaks and Champion Stakes at Flemington, as well as the Randwick Plate. After the A.J.C. St Leger in which Mountain Knight beat her, the owners of Carlita complained to the stewards that Bracken had disobeyed instructions by not taking the filly to the front. Unfortunately for her owners on that occasion, McLachlan was wise to their game and adopted the same tactics on Mountain Knight, and the filly didn’t have the pace to get past him. The stewards quite rightly exonerated Bracken. I might mention that the 1915 Champion Stakes won by Carlita was the last occasion that grand old race was conducted. The King’s Plate was introduced to replace it the following year, and Carlita won the first running of this as well. It was sad to see the Champion Stakes omitted from the racing calendar but the times had changed, and the decision of the V.R.C. seemed inevitable.
It is hard for today’s racegoers to appreciate the significance of the race in the late nineteenth century. It was our colonial equivalent of the Ascot Gold Cup in England, and a horse had to win it to seal his or her reputation as a champion stayer. Considering its distinguished honour roll, it seemed most fitting that Carlita, who retired from the Turf as Australia’s greatest stakes-winning mare with £17,830 to her name, should have been the winner at its final running, leading all the way. Many expected Carlita to prove a successful matron but her relative failures in the breeding paddock caused some to develop a prejudice against dour stayers as prospective mothers. Whether it is the exhausting nature of their calling or the fact that staying mares are generally lean and hungry, many seem much less successful at stud than their sprinting counterparts, which are generally better physical specimens.
Mountain Knight was trained throughout his career by Harry Rayner and was the second and last of Harry’s A.J.C. Derby winners, Melos having been the first twenty-six years earlier in 1888. Born at Burrundulla in the Mudgee district in 1841, Rayner won renown as a trainer of stayers. As a young man, his horsemanship had come to the notice of Richard Rouse of Guntawang who installed him there as a trainer of the station horses. He acted both as a stockman and amateur rider in country races. It was at Guntawang, of course, where Michael Fennelly first made his name. It wasn’t until early 1873 that Rayner came to Sydney and he took a small cottage with four horseboxes attached, in Jane Street, Lower Randwick, which in those days was known as ‘Struggle Town’.
Richard Rouse set him up there, and for five years he served as his private trainer. The pair struck instant gold when the lightweight Wanderer (6 st. 4lb) took out the Doncaster in 1873. Two Sydney Tattersall’s Club Cups followed with Viva, and Rayner’s reputation was established. Success brought other patrons to the stable including William Gannon and Alec Busby, the latter racing under the nom de course of Mr J. ‘Northern’. Although not a big bettor himself, Rayner knew how to lay down a betting coup on behalf of others when he had the horse for the job, as Bungebah proved when he landed the 1891 V.R.C. Newmarket Handicap. He opened at 33/1 on the appearance of weights but closed on the day of the race at something like 7/4.
Rayner retired from training in January 1919 after a severe sickness. His fellow trainers marked the occasion with the presentation of an illuminated address, and a set of pipes – Rayner was a prolific pipe smoker – in the members’ room at Randwick with Joe Burton doing the honours and with Colin Stephen in the chair. The illuminated address contained portraits of Rayner’s principal patrons together with the signatures of fifty-one of his training colleagues. Rayner did briefly come back a couple of years later to take temporary charge of Tom Payten’s team during that trainer’s final illness. Payten and Rayner had been lifelong friends, and at the time, young Bayley Payten wasn’t eligible for a licence. It was a typical kind act from the old man.
Rayner was often to be seen in his later years sauntering among the cracks in the birdcage during the Randwick spring and autumn meetings. He was a capital judge of a horse and always ready to assist any young man eager to learn about the business. Apart from his two A.J.C. Derbies, Rayner’s other big race victories included the Melbourne Cup (Arsenal); Sydney Cup twice (Street Arab and The Australian Peer); The Metropolitan (Nobleman); Victoria Derby (The Australian Peer); and the Newmarket and Epsom Handicaps with Bungebah. Although with success he enlarged his Jane Street home and built additional boxes, he was never tempted to leave the place. It was there that he died, aged 92, in June 1933, the grand old man of the Australian Turf.
At the time of his A.J.C. Derby triumph, Mountain Knight carried the famous dark blue and white colours of one of the largest owners who was then racing in Australasia, regarding sheer numbers of horses in training. E. J. (James) Watt was born in Auckland in June 1873, and he graduated at law at Cambridge although he never practised. James’s interest in racing was unsurprising as his father was the first president of the Auckland Racing Club while his brother-in-law was Tom Lowry, best remembered as the owner of Desert Gold. James Watt held extensive pastoral interests both in the Dominion, principally in the Hawke’s Bay district, and in N.S.W. and Queensland, and it was the revenue from these properties that enabled him to indulge his passion for the Turf. He first came to Australian notice when he purchased the Melbourne Cup winner, Merriwee, to serve as a stud horse in New Zealand, and he was successful with quite a number of his progeny over there.
It was in 1914 that Watt’s burgeoning pastoral empire saw him relocate to Australia and although he continued to race in the Dominion on a large scale, his racing interests now included a team trained for him by D.J. Price in Melbourne while Harry Rayner was his main retainer in Sydney. Even before his Derby success, Rayner had prepared a number of good juvenile winners for the owner including Ventura (Breeders’ Plate and Gimcrack Stakes) and Athenic (December Stakes). Watt was fortunate in enjoying success so soon after relocating from New Zealand. In fact, he won the last race on Derby Day in 1914 as well, the Kensington Handicap with another of his horses, and his luck continued on the second day of the A.J.C. Spring Meeting when another son of Mountain King, in Del Monte, also prepared by Harry Rayner, carried his colours to victory in the Breeders’ Plate. Watt enjoyed a particularly satisfying meeting that year when his horses credited him with four wins and a second during the week and £7,969 in prize money.
In New South Wales, Watt owned a large station at Boomey in the Molong district, and conducted a thoroughbred stud there, while in Central Queensland his interests centred on the Thomson River country. His racing empire matched the sprawling geography of his sheep holdings, and over the years his colours became just as familiar on the country racecourses of western N.S.W. as at either Randwick or Flemington. In fact, apart from Western Australia, I think his livery was sported successfully in every mainland State of Australia. A gentleman of the old school, Watt was of a quiet and retiring disposition, and the wagering side of the sport never appealed to him at all; he publicly stated that he wouldn’t protest on a racecourse under any circumstances as it was against his principles. Possessed of considerable knowledge of bloodstock, he was a generous buyer at yearling sales. After Harry Rayner’s retirement, Pat Nailon and George Price trained most of his horses.
Gold Rod was probably the best horse to sport his colours in this country, and, together with Mildura, the pair scored a hat-trick of Doncaster Handicaps for their fortunate owner in the years 1939-41. Other good horses owned by him included Waikare and Pershore, which each won an A.J.C. Metropolitan, as well as those fast juveniles, Del Monte, Ventura, Cereza, Visage, Lady Aura and Athenic. But despite this roll call of top-class horses, James Watt put far more money into racing than he ever took out of the sport. There were many missteps along the way, none more so than when having bought the future champion Bobrikoff as a yearling for £80 he sold out for £50 before he had even raced. It was in March 1934 that Watt succeeded to the vacancy on the A.J.C. committee caused by the resignation of Fred Moses; he remained a committeeman until his death in May 1942. At the time it was estimated that his horses had won more than £300,000 in stakes. Fernleigh Castle, the well-known landmark on New South Head Road, Rose Bay, and the Sydney home of Watt and his wife, still stands today.
H. ‘Midget’ McLachlan always looked upon Mountain Knight’s A.J.C. Derby as the most satisfying ride of his career in the saddle, largely because it rewarded Watt both for the loyalty he had shown McLachlan and the lavish sums he had invested in bloodstock. The A.J.C. Derby capped a wonderful year for McLachlan, who had won the 1913-14 Sydney Jockeys’ Title with a total of 24 wins despite being suspended for almost the last three months of the season. At the A.J.C. Autumn Meeting earlier in the year, he had won both the Sydney Cup and Cumberland Stakes on Lilyveil. The year 1914 had started auspiciously enough for McLachlan when he rode a treble at the New Year’s Day meeting at Randwick – a rare occurrence in those bygone days – and an astute observer might have noted the gangling colt on which he won the Nursery, for it was none other than Mountain Knight himself.
Bill (Midget) McLachlan was born in the inner Sydney suburb of Glebe in 1887. Mad about horses from the start and a natural lightweight, his uncle Benny McLachlan, who was a hurdle jockey, arranged an apprenticeship with the trainer Joe Vernon when the lad was thirteen. It was difficult for apprentices to gain mounts in those hard times and although McLachlan stayed with Vernon for more than twelve months, he only rode in about three races. McLachlan’s first winning mount came in a Rosehill Handicap during January 1903 on an aged brown gelding by Biraganbil called Matong, a hurdle-racer owned by his Uncle Ben. Soon afterwards, McLachlan transferred his papers to the Randwick trainer Dick Wootton. Wootton was just then beginning to forge his remarkable reputation as a master of apprentices. He had already groomed Norman Godby for the saddle but in Bill McLachlan, he got one even better.
It was the right stable to join at the right time. At the A.J.C. Spring Meeting, the year before, Wootton had won the A.J.C. Metropolitan with his lightweight mare, Queen of Sheba. In apprenticing McLachlan, it was very much a case of a gifted boy coming into the orbit of a gifted master. Wootton lost no time in legging-up McLachlan and in May 1903 we find him partnering his master’s Gozo mare, Wyena, to victory in a handicap at Canterbury Park. McLachlan had managed to land some six winners on Sydney racecourses when Wootton decided to embark on his historic and remunerative excursion to South Africa. It was to be the making of Bill McLachlan as a jockey.
The money won on Queen of Sheba in the A.J.C. Metropolitan went some way towards bankrolling Wootton’s odyssey to the racecourses of South Africa upon which Wootton embarked a few months later. Apart from the twenty-five horses loaded on board the steamer, Sussex, destined for the Veldt, Wootton also took McLachlan and Ted Courtenay to do the stable riding. Frank Wootton, Dick’s oldest son, joined the party later on, although he was still far too young to be officially licensed. After surviving the wretched sea voyage and monsoon, the Wootton team settled into life in Johannesburg. The party won well over one hundred races in South Africa during the next two years and more and brought off some spectacular betting stings. McLachlan’s two best wins in South Africa came in successive Johannesburg Handicaps on Chere Amie and Zoe. Dick Wootton, Bill McLachlan and company all returned to Australia just prior to the 1905 V.R.C. Spring Meeting.
Over that brief summer of 1905-06, McLachlan was afforded the opportunity of demonstrating to Sydney racegoers just how much he’d mastered the saddle during his time in the Rand. Wootton had resumed training at Randwick in December 1905 with the aim of acquiring two teams of horses, one to take back to South Africa to be prepared by his brother-in-law, and the other to accompany himself to England where he proposed to challenge Australia’s former Colonial masters at their own game. The racing public was prepared for a spectacular appearance of the Veldt crusaders at Randwick when it became known that Dick Wootton was in the market for tried and improved horses and that ‘Midget’ would be their partner when the weights suited. And a spectacular appearance is what they got! Two of the horses that Wootton quickly acquired were The Pet and Fabric.
McLachlan did his nascent reputation in the pigskin no harm at all when he partnered The Pet, a gelded son of Nobleman, to victory in the Challenge Stakes; and Fabric, an entire by Bill of Portland, to victory in the Tattersall’s Cup, at the A.J.C. Summer Meeting. These successes were supplemented by other wins on other horses owned and trained by Wootton including Hollander, Dromedary and Simmeran – all bought recently. In thirteen rides at the Christmas and Anniversary meetings, Bill McLachlan saluted the judge eleven times. While Wootton was collecting horses for South Africa, he was making them into good bargains by winning races at the same time. However, McLachlan’ summer of content ended at Rosehill in early February when the stipendiary stewards suspended him for two months for causing interference. With time on his hands and nothing to do, McLachlan got himself married.
In April 1906, Richard Wootton again left Australia, this time to take up permanent residence at Treadwell House in England and begin the family association with the English Turf that would prove so rewarding in the decades ahead. McLachlan had been expected to join his master on this exodus too, but although still a minor, marriage intervened. Besides, Mac believed big money in Australia was now within his grasp. Considering the success that the Wootton dynasty subsequently enjoyed in England, it is interesting, if fruitless, to ponder what Mac might have done had he chosen to ply his craft in the Old Country at that time. Certainly, when he did try his luck there a few years later in 1911, the relatively closed shop that was the English retainer system, frustrated his ambition. Without a stable contract and arriving late in the season, McLachlan only secured fourteen mounts and managed just two winners in minor handicaps at Manchester, besides finishing fourth on Eudorus, the future sire of Eurythmic, in the Royal Hunt Cup at Ascot. He very quickly decided to abort the experiment, and after a sightseeing tour on the Continent returned to Australia for a decade in which as a natural lightweight – well under eight stone – he dominated the scales on Sydney racecourses.
But back to 1906 after Dick Wootton had sailed off into the sunset. McLachlan still had some time to go before his apprenticeship ended and so he transferred to Billy Austin who trained out of stables in Wigram-street, Harris Park, not far from Rosehill racecourse. Austin had won the previous year’s Doncaster with Famous and his clients included both A. M. Rouse and R. D. Barry. Upon finishing his apprenticeship with Austin, McLachlan still had to conform to the A.J.C. ruling which provided that a jockey must work in a stable until he had turned twenty-one. This was how he came to join Harry Rayner’s establishment at Randwick and even after attaining his majority and freelancing, ‘Midget’ did most of Rayner’s riding ever after.
McLachlan was a man of few words and even fewer opinions; his most articulate conversations came through his hands when he was seated in the saddle. A brilliant all-round rider he enjoyed as much success on smart juveniles in short scampers as he did on seasoned stayers over a distance in Australia’s richest weight-for-age races and handicaps. At Randwick, he won the Derby, Sydney Cup and The Metropolitan twice each. McLachlan was just at home in Melbourne, where he won the Melbourne Cup three times and the Caulfield Cup twice among a host of other big events. It was only at the very end of his career that McLachlan relented, and had another crack at English racing. His real motivation for returning to the Old Dart was to accompany his son, W. H. McLachlan junior, who was contracted to ride over there. Father and son, rode there during the period 1922-26 although Mac senior really only had two full seasons. He rode about fifty winners during that time, and most of his rides came from Eddie de Mestre, the son of Etienne, who was then training for Solly Joel, although for a time the Earl of Zetland had the second call on his services. De Mestre valued Mac’s ability to know how well a horse was going in a track gallop without making time, and then to keep his own counsel afterwards.
Years later, Mac mused: ‘Many a tout I tricked’ when reflecting on those early morning gallops on the Limekilns. Polyphontes was probably the best horse he rode there winning both the Ascot Derby and Eclipse Stakes and partnering him to fifth place in the English Derby won by Sansovino. One day in October 1923 at Doncaster he rode a treble for de Mestre, including the winner of the big sprint, the Portland Stakes. His son also enjoyed considerable success in a brief career on the English Turf, winning both a Cambridgeshire and a City and Suburban, before increasing weight forced very early retirement and a switch to training horses. When McLachlan senior decided to try his hand at conditioning horses, the A.J.C. immediately granted him a No 1 trainer’s licence in August 1930 and his very first patron was none other than E. J. Watt. Neither father nor son was very successful as trainers, but Mac senior remained a Randwick identity for years and was a regular visitor to the racecourse well into his seventies.
Before I end this chapter, permit me to make one more observation. The irony of the year 1914 for Lauchlan Mackinnon, who coveted the Derby more than any other prize, was that he had the consolation of winning the Melbourne Cup instead. Kingsburgh, a useful handicapper, grabbed the one prize in Australian racing sought by most men who register a set of racing colours. However, to the austere racing purist that was the future V.R.C. chairman, he would have gladly swapped the gold cup for that elusive blue riband.